Saturday, 28 April 2012

What really is the point of me living? She probably doesn't really love me anyway. If she doesn't, then there's nothing left to keep me from leaving this place. What a fucking shithole. I'm a useless arse with no redeeming features and an inability to make anything better for anyone. Fucking waste of space.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Tobacco: A London History

By Sir Reginald Wasteman

Smoke. I know enough about it, let me tell you. In my career as a journalist, I have smoked enough to destroy many a lesser man. Aged one and a half, my first word was “glycol”, a phrase that seemed to be nonsense at the time, but which was later realised by my scientist father to be one of the humectants used as an additive in tobacco products. The omens for a healthy smokeless future boded poorly; and, true to fate’s form, I had my first smoke aged thirteen whilst hanging out in Trafalgar Square. Twenty years and approximately twenty thousand cigarettes later, I finally gathered my resources together and quit. That was six years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. This is primarily because of a neck problem caused by whiplash when I crashed my car into a lamppost in 1996, believing the lamppost was a giant cigarette. I exited the car and watched it burn, and realised that smoking could actually have killed me. Imaginary, hallucinatory, withdrawal-symptom-crazy smoking, but smoking nonetheless. I watched my car burn and smoulder, reckoning how my lungs probably appeared the same at that present moment. Each time I think about smoking, I think about that burning car, and then, if that’s not enough, I turn to my new addiction of Tic Tacs. Doctors have advised me that my addiction is potentially dangerous, but I tell them I brush and floss every day and they cease their talk. “Two hours, just two calories” I tell them. But do they listen? No. The doctors don’t listen to anything I say either.

When Walter Raleigh first brought tobacco over the Atlantic to London, he had no idea of the chaos that would unravel upon London’s denizens when exposed to this most toxic, lethal, yet divine substance. Entering London with his cargo, eighty tonnes of which were dumped nonchalantly hither and thither, Raleigh strove forth and produced a solitary leaf to Queen Elizabeth herself. Her reaction? Confusion. Raleigh, undeterred, proceeded to explain the importance of the leaf to Elizabeth. Assuming he was some sort of court jester, she greeted his smoking instructions with nothing but raucous laughter. He rolled the tobacco together and set fire to it, prompting laughter so hard that one of her armed guards is said to have had a heart attack. It was only when the tobacco was passed around that the reaction leaned more towards what Raleigh was aiming at: inhalation followed by awkward coughing, disguised by all in what is seen by Grant as “the earliest known recorded incident of anyone trying to look cool” (Posturing: A History, 1976). Elizabeth was soon smoking, soon relishing that sweet and yet bitter kick to the throat accompanied by that feeling of the body being fulfilled, complete, whole. Like if you don’t get one you won’t be able to con... Tic Tac break.

This habit of hers was kept secret from all but her closest confidantes, only revealed recently when her diaries were put through spectrographic filters and two atoms of burned tobacco was revealed in a corner of a page. There is also a noteworthy entry dated May 21st, 1566, containing myriad Biblical references:

Psalms 74, Revelation 9, Psalms 68, Psalms 102, Revelation 19, Revelation 8, Hosea 13, Psalms 144, Isaiah 6, Isaiah 65.

Only recently did historians discover that each of these verses contains the word ‘smoke’. Perhaps the most illuminating piece of evidence suggesting a smoking addiction is the diary entry of December 4th of that year, stating

            Lo! I need a Smoke!

It is said that Shakespeare himself smoked - although not tobacco, but weed. In 2001  Francis Thackeray found evidence of marijuana residue on pipe fragments found in Shakespeare’s garden. Theories abound that his work is tainted with suggestions of weed inhalation: the entire content of Midsummer Night’s Dream could be enough evidence alone. However, there are other, more specific examples.

In Romeo and Juliet, “love is a smoke” (I,i); Love’s Labour’s Lost mentions “sweet smoke” (III,i); while in Timon of Athens, it is as though Shakespeare makes his own confession: “I smoke” (III,vi). In Pericles, Prince of Tyre, there appears the curt but notable “smoke” (I,i). More prominently, Shakespeare alludes to rolling a large blunt of marijuana in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the line “weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in” (II, i), whilst in King Richard II we see “I am sworn to weed” (II,iii); in Measure for Measure a hint of regret is expressed (“Weed my vice”, III,ii), and yet also in King Henry VI there comes a message of world unity not seen until the 1960s: “One by one, we’ll weed them all at last” (I,iii). This hope for a world united by weed was one that was not only far ahead of its time, but far ahead of its space, and spacetime, and the Nth dimension, and multiverses.

Smoke, even then, meant something. Like something has been missing your whole life until now, like the cigarette is the extra limb that turns you into a better person than everyone else. And it’s not even about everyone else. It’s just you, and the cigarette, that silent friend, who seems to absorb all your thoughts, your angst and worries, and ejects them in the form of...

Tic Tac break.

For a while, the rumour of folk smoking sticks in the mouths formed the basis of London’s knowledge of tobacco. Consequently, the more trend-setting members of the London peoples took it upon themselves to pick up twigs and attempt to smoke them. An account of two fourteen year old blacksmiths tells that they would spend their time between forging iron smoking candle sticks. Their fate is unknown, but the brief trend they set was celebrated in two wax models stationed at the Odds & Ends Museum in Black Street. Unfortunately these models were bought by a Russian billionaire in 2003 and converted to candles. It is said that he sat on a chair stroking his pet cat Boggs whilst watching these priceless models dissolve over the course of four days, all the while laughing “evilly” (Boggs, 2003).

There are several reports of large crowds forming in London to watch men smoking tobacco. There are also several reports of large crowds watching men smoke tobacco; before, bored, departing as swiftly as they gathered. These micro-gatherings are said to have influenced the ‘flash-mob’ movement of the early 2000s. A flash mob paid tribute to these origins in 2011 when several bald men gathered around a table of two men smoking pipes, both of whom had no idea why, but continued smoking nonetheless and continuing their conversation about plasters. One of the men is said to have offered the leader of the flash mob a doughnut as some sort of parley, but was met only with a withering stare.

James I was vehemently opposed to smoking, pre-dating modern day scientists with his tedious lectures on its evils. However, all his vitriol and self-righteousness came to a head when Guy Fawkes, a well-known smoker of the era, attempted a light a bomb. It failed. Had it successfully exploded, it would have been the greatest pro-smoking statement ever unleashed. A patron of Fawkes’s favourite pub heard Fawkes proclaim on November 3rd

Smoking is Eville? If it be Eville, then let us all become Eville. Let Men be Equalse and drown in the glorie of Smoke, and Fyre, and Tar.

No eyelids were batted even when he concluded his speech with

            I’m going to blow up Parliament.

James I ended up drinking heavily, resulting kidney stones, the loss of his teeth, and his eventual death from a stroke. Irony dictates that the symptoms of heavy smoking should be so similar. Kidney stones excluded.

Before his execution, Raleigh wrote a letter from prison, including the phrase “I am but dust”, a thinly-veiled reference to his determination not to bow to pressure and give up the smoke. The smoke, which has held and continues to hold millions in thrall, the smoke which glides so elegantly upwards through trees, as though conveying a message of eternity to all smokers, connected by this stream of weakness, but a weakness that is strong – a strength to acknowledge that Death will come for us all, but that some can blow a little smoke in his face before he comes...

Tic Tic break.

The letter continues:

            Baily oweth me 200 pounds, and Adrian Gilbert 600.

Raleigh was known for his generosity in handing out tobacco to others, but it seems that he kept a record over the years of exactly how much he had given. The tobacco was later poured into his grave as topsoil, while Baily and Gilbert watched “shuddering” (Boggs, 2003). Raleigh’s last words as he lay on the scaffold were

            This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all Diseases.

A summary of tobacco so apt that no better tribute can be found in any other texts.

Tobacco continued to thrive in London despite the early trend of naysayers. The return of Charles II from the continent introduced the trend of snuff. Like many emerging from London pub toilets today, the sound of sniffing pervaded all, to the extent that signs were posted on pub doors reminding punters to refrain from snuff inhalation after 11 in the evening, for consideration of neighbours would be woken by the sound of dozens of revellers emerging and collectively sniffing, a sound that John Dryden, a resident of Soho, found

So Irritating that were I to gather together a collection of Corks, I would scatter them over the Road and plug up their Stupid Nosttrils, if only the damned things had been invented!

Dryden’s wish would come true on 1795, when Samuel Henshall patented the corkscrew, which was soon followed up by the cork. However, by this point Dryden was dead.

In the 19th century cigars and cigarettes were imported to Britain, perfecting the distribution method of the godly leaf. The First World War saw cigarettes distributed as presents to soldiers. During this period the tobacco companies contributed to government war funds in exchange for allowing cigarettes to be part of government war propaganda. One advert, posted on the walls of the Tube, depicted soldiers casually lighting Smith & Wesson cigarettes whilst sitting atop a trench in sunlight and smiling at the ease of their lives and the refined appearance of their moustaches. One well-known oik of Gander Green Lane drew a bullet piercing through the skulls of all the soldiers, before smearing his own blood all over the poster. Later, the artist would influence the work of Banksy as well as Korn.*

As Hollywood films spread tobacco’s popularity, London became enveloped in what was known as the Second Wave of smog. This New Wave would coincide with the New Wave movement in French cinema. Attempts to fuse the smoke and film Renaissance into some sort of ultra-explosion of collective cultural happening ended in mixed results – Bryn Pelo’s film Smoke and Mirrors flopped at the box office in 1963, with visitors to its Leicester Square complaining that “some dickhead had just filmed himself smoking for six hours”. The reviews in Film and Image magazine were equally scathing, with the then upcoming director Lindsay Anderson donating a review of

I, er...

As the decades passed, the image of tobacco changed negatively with the collective realisation that cigarettes caused cancer. More telling was that the generation so seduced in the New Wave era had grown old, and that new generations no longer found cigarettes aspirational, associated as they were with the generation who wore Brylcreem and hit women. Attempts to appeal to new demographics had mixed results. In 1979, capitalising on the worldwide success of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Marlboro produced an ad campaign using Leonard Nimoy’s voice, stating

Tobacco. To back go where no man has gone before.

The advert was pulled within weeks, owing to Nimoy complaining that his voice had been used “without his permission”, as well as Ofcom’s issues with its problematic message; notable not so much for its promotion of a dangerous product but by the fact that according to standard regulations it “didn’t make any sense”. When interviewed by media the following day and asked to expand upon this statement, the head of Ofcom replied “To back go? It’s not only a split infinitive, but the word order’s all wrong. Seriously. What?”

Londoners now enjoy a mixture of smug smoke-free lungs and a paranoia that those who gather outside to smoke are secretly planning to overthrow them. As I sit typing this, I can see that down on the street smokers are gathered like street urchins, like the kids always at the back of the bike sheds, enjoying the moment of rebellion. It’s not society they’re rebelling against – it’s life as a whole. London as a whole.

I want to join them. But the burning car holds me back. I want to be there with them, sucking on those sticks. But the burning car comes back in my mind and I hold back. I will hold back for the rest of my life. The rest of my small, inconsequential life. I will die anyway, of a tumour – it’s just a matter of when. But life, in all its flawed, tragic beauty, is something greater than myself and my whims of fancy. I choose to live. Whether life chooses me is another matter.

Time for another Tic Tac.

* I rang Korn up recently to confirm this. They had no idea what I was talking about, but I know for a fact it must have. How could it not?

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Room

The last rites were served on May 21st. Robert sat in an enclosed wind ridden box he called his room and typed out a message on an old typewriter, brandishing it before him and releasing it into the wind. He watched it fly away over the stagnant horizon towards nowhere special. The city was quiet tonight. But no one was asleep. No one was ever asleep anymore. A drowsy green murk hung heavily in and around the verandas, coating them with sickly goodwill, dripping greasy lustre onto heavyset pillows already stained with weeks’ worth of stale sweat imprinted upon their once bleached-white fronts. The town was awake in the neon light, eyes half-closed, bathed in docile and dangerous suggestion designed to entice the wanderers from themselves into the circuit. Robert picked up the whisky, relishing its harsh kick as it travelled into his wearied stomach. The thing already felt like it was ready to spit acid back up his larynx. Wouldn’t be a big deal, as long as he had milk in the fridge. Knowledge of this helped him relax a little and he took another sip as his eyes gazed out the black window in front of his desk, where his mind could try to find the words for his hands to translate into ink that splattered itself onto the patient paper resting upon it. What was there left to write about? What effect would words have anymore? He had long stopped bothering to think about it. Writing in itself, tossing it to the wind – it was a hobby, after all. People had hobbies all over. Tonight, most people were indulging the hobby of fucking and sleeping. That’s how it had been for Robert too. He was one of those – still could be – only, tonight, it didn’t seem apt to think of himself as being on a par with the rest who dwelled without, sprawled upon their oblivious beds, tucked within their quilted armour, keeping out the night, keeping out unrest and havoc, if only for a few hours. Robert squinted through his glasses out into the street, trying to figure out what the answer to it was. The answer to the question of what he was doing. Why he couldn’t rest.

The night did not answer. Rain fell in speckled dots that ran along the guttural street and gathered in oily pools. Bricks frowned and roofs leaned drunkenly. To be out there in that rain tonight was to be a barbarian. Out there, the Plague’s power held more sway at night. Its threat was not only greater, but it existed in all certainty. During the day, the idea that this town, this country, could fall was ludicrous; but at night, looking out into that cloaked, faceless night, with its strange noises and whispers, stray dogs and screeching mosquitoes, all possibilities presented themselves. The Plague had taken Europe, yes – that was true. But military protection, the Channel – all these assured England’s safety. But it wasn’t enough, Robert realised. It wasn’t enough simply to be told. It wasn’t enough to be assured. The knowledge that it was out there – that a force that did not understand or care about guns, walls, or material assurances, waited for its moment was more than enough. For six years, it felt...

Robert grimaced in satisfaction and drained the last of his glass, before rewarding himself with another. His satisfaction came as the result of realising what it was he was feeling at this moment, and all nights since he could remember. It was nausea. Nothing physical, but mental. Dread alone was not enough. Dread implied that there was a certainty; it implied an outside force that would come. But all evidence suggested it wouldn’t come. Instead, nausea replaced dread – for nausea was a physical manifestation of the need to create a physical rendering of the idea. Nausea, the enemy within, replaced the Plague, the enemy without. But this nausea was of the mind. His head felt chained, held in a vice, by a force that seemed to have power greater than he could imagine. The night’s malevolence was down to the feeling that it knew. It knew what he was going through, and it seemed actively to encourage it. The night’s black vacuum was not empty. But it was lifeless. The colour of death was evidence enough that no matter what the day promised, it was all illusion.

He breathed onto the glass. It misted up. He touched it. It was cold. The night infiltrated inside the room. It wasn’t indoors, not really. Not as long as the window was cold. Not as long as he shivered from the draught. He only really noticed how cold he was when he leaned back in his chair and thought about it. Gazing at his hands listlessly, enjoying the sight of their sepulchre-like sheen, suggesting a sickness so terminal and critical that it had become a part of his being and he didn’t even notice it. He was not indoors if his body was this cold. He was not free of the Plague if he shivered like he was doing now. But this was irrational. He shut his eyes and let the hypnagogic spirals pulse into his mind. His mind came to life inside this darkness. This was a good darkness. It was the only time that he could truly be inside himself. Letting go of the body’s weakness and pliability allowed his consciousness to remember who it belonged to. At this point it was probable that he was drunk; but the drunkenness that for a few moments allowed a wisdom that was briefly brilliant, like an eclipse – but when it passed, he knew, then the real nausea would come. Then these worries about the world, about the outside, about his existence, would all cease, because the only problem he would have to deal with and think about would be something as banal as trying to stop or trying to encourage food from leaving his stomach, depending on how desperate or tired he would be. Probably best to play it safe tonight. Eating a solitary meal five hours ago was not enough; puking it all away was dangerous.

He picked up the bottle and swigged, surprising himself.
“Fuck it,” he muttered, wiping his lips. The sound of his voice in that box room sounded flat, off-key, wobbly. That point of drunkenness where he was outside of himself, watching and recording his own actions from some sort of perspective. He stared outside again, but this time felt a more comfortable sense of unity with the night, allowing himself the possibility that the night was part of him, that it was not a dangerous arena where hateful crowds bayed for his blood, but simply lifeless. And lifelessness wasn’t catastrophic. He wasn’t full of life tonight, either. Maybe he would take a walk. Go out into that good night and splash about in its icy oily puddles. Flick it playfully at the passing dogs. Laugh at their bloody fangs. Mock the sodden stinking bodies that occasionally appeared on the roadside. Nick their wallets. Throw the money away. He could do anything. He was one of the Plagueless. 

A light briefly appeared from the middle of one of the apartment blocks either side of the road. A silhouette came to the fore, and a window opened. A woman in her mid thirties leaned out. He discerned the tiny red glow of a cigarette and a puff. Robert resisted the urge to shrink back, and allowed his alcohol-tainted mind to override his rational mind. He did not move, believing this would mean he was invisible to the smoker. This was probably correct, although he did not know it. The smoker, he reckoned, did not want to think about the maliciousness of the night. She stared at the building opposite her. She did not dwell upon the bandit road that lay down below. Maybe that was the best method to cope. Not to look at it, because looking at the road could lead one to thinking about where it ended. The streetlamps shone their urine-coloured civilisation a dozen fold until they ended suddenly, and from then on it was wild country. Out there was nothing. And everything. Too much. Too many possibilities. With roads, streetlamps, geometrically designed rows of windows, boxes arranged in order, numbers and letters allocating identities, there was an order. A sense of a higher power. Of someone who knew what they were doing. Beyond that lamppost, all order dissolved.

Knowing how close he was to that boundary made Robert feel like he was out there anyway. To be on the edge of an abyss means never believing you won’t fall into it. The smoker was down to half. Her eyes never left the building opposite. What could she be thinking about? What was there left to think about? These ideas were no longer ideas for Robert – that was what made them feel so depressing. Perhaps when they first occurred to him there was a strange sense of euphoria, that somehow he’d cracked the code of his own disillusionment and fear, but now that there was no solution, there was only the reaffirmation of a dilemma that existed nowhere but inside his own head, for he had created it. His nausea was suffered by himself alone. The woman ducked back inside, shut the window, shut the curtains, and then blackness fell.

Robert stared at the window, half-imagining that the light had never gone out, for his memory made it alive, like smoke from an extinguished candle. His memories made the woman more real for a while, because what she meant to him was only felt after her departure. She would never know this, which was what made it more dispiriting. Robert felt a tear run down his cheek, but it did no justification to what he was feeling. This was sadness beyond anger, beyond repair, beyond any light. This was a black hole, and beyond. Skewed memories. Concepts that crashed together in misplaced, misshapen forms that pained the mind to absorb. The memories of his wife, the memories of the child, the memories of the pets and regalia that went along with a happiness construction... they all seemed very unreal. Very fake. The whole idea that he could be happy, that anyone could be happy in a world such as this, felt like a terrible joke. Scratch that – he was no longer bothered by the idea of the world. What happened to Europe was nothing to do with his unhappiness, with his mind, with his circumstances. What he had lost and what Europe had lost were not the same thing. His nausea was not theirs to know.

Perhaps he was selfish. Perhaps it was his fault and his alone that his life had turned out this way. Moral relativism, like a ball and chain, kept bringing him back and forth from that idea. His life was neither good nor bad. There was death and suffering everywhere – he was alive, and fairly healthy, although not exactly hale; but nonetheless he had his own accommodation, his own space... it could be worse. The draught was barely noticeable anymore. The damp even less. As long as he had his typewriter, then he was a bastion of civilisation in this heathen world, a lighthouse of memory and concrete recollection in this street that seemed to be made out of junk.

The paper upon which he had been typing was blank. Blank all this time. Where had his mind gone? A skipping stone that had slipped down into the oily waters of his mind somewhere down the line. It was always a little alarming when he emerged out of himself, beyond the veil and the gauze that separated his subjective and jaded mind from the necessities of reality presented in front of him. The paper demanded to be filled. It was civilisation itself. So he began typing.

The city is quiet tonight. No-one sleeps.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Pass The Badger Guts, Jim: A History of London Games

By Mike Impossibru

It is said that at age five, a child laughs four hundred times a day, and adults only fifteen. I remember as a child how gaily I used to skip around and survey the various scenes laden out before me on Nature's plate. Boys playing football. Girls playing hopscotch. My parents playing hide the salami.

Games, according to Dr. Ernest Piledriver, "stimulate the soul and excite the body” (Sex, 2002). London was itself formed as the result of a game between Claudius (mentioned in this anthology in Git’s essay ‘Dishing the Dirt’) and a commander named Ludicrus; a game involving a bet of ten monkeys to see whether Claudius would be able to create a city in two days. Claudius lost the bet, but won the war – several years later, he deployed Ludicrus to Scotland “just for the hell of it” (Dolman, 1950). It is said Ludicrus lasted two days, and laughed ironically at his fate as he was beaten to death somewhere around the Glasgow area for “havin a face loch a ninny”, as recorded in the diary of an observing Scottish philosopher named Ross Mcmacmacmc. When asked later in a Roman court what this phrase meant, he replied “Scotland.” Asked to expand upon this, he said “Scotland.” Three hours later, the judges threw out the case, news received by Mcmacmacmc with a nod and a muttered “Scotland.”

London’s Roman games were not influenced by Rome’s “panem et circenses” (Plato) but by more local, tribal customs. Attempts to build stadia rankled with the populace, and, considering the poor health of Londoners at that time, it is estimated that if one takes into account the total number of rich and healthy enough to attend gladiator fights in London in 201 AD, the attendance could have only ever been a maximum total of twelve, gladiator included. What Londoners thrived on were grassroots sports. Sports like Bake the Pie, a game involving a hundred or so locals and one pie. The pie would be half-baked to the point of not quite being edible, before being carried into the crowd. At this point, whoever was hungry enough would grab the pie. At no point would contact with the person be allowed, but the hundred others would possess flames from sources such as torches with which to ‘bake’ the pie so that the individual in possession of it would find it more palatable. Unfortunately for those holding the pie, it would take on average five seconds before the heat from the hundred grew overwhelming, at which point they either passed the pie on to someone else, or suffered the consequences. One memorable game of 399 AD was chronicled by a local baker named Dr. Who:

I baked a pie and placed it on the ground. A man picked it up. Next to him, a man dropped his trousers and farted; and immediately the pie and the man were entirely engulfed in flame. Needless to say, I was soon baking another pie, and a new rule was invented that did not allow farting for advantage. As for the body, someone probably ate it.

Bake the Pie was eventually banned by Cromwell, but continued to remain in the public consciousness, mutating and evolving to become eventually what we now know as chess.

Around this time of Cromwell’s megalomania, games (and pies) were banned completely. Families in houses would attempt to do their best not to have fun. If a child slipped on a banana skin, great pains would be taken to ensure that no laughter occurred. Usually this was fairly simple, seeing as bananas didn’t exist in England at the time. Rebellious families, however, would deliberately flaunt the rules, turning everything they could into a game just to make a point. Bets were made on whether someone was or was not about to make a bet. Incest was revealed through a system of guessing, enabling the eventual revelation to be a moment of triumph for those to whom the news was broken. One poor bugger who learned that his sister was his mother and his father was his son responded to the news with “Yes!” This game would be soon known by its now familiar epithet of Guess Who?

Funerals were often raucous affairs; one former Cavalier whose best friend died when decapitated by a random sword danced upon his friend’s coffin. Twenty seconds into this dance the man himself was shot, although it became clear fairly soon that the shot was not by any government forces present but some canny mourner. The funeral went on as planned, with mourners ignoring the fact that the coffin now held a body on it as well as in it. This game would go on to be illegal because it was murder.

London’s games were not all fun. In 1144 King Stephen watched in concern as Londoners began a trend for creating new games based on anti-Semitic ideas. One morning, disguised as a beggar, Stephen wandered down to a tavern to sit and observe the mindset of those who had decided that persecution was the best game in town. The conversation he had with a ringleader went as follows:

"Who are you and why are you in my pub?"
"Go fish."
"I know your face. Show yourself!"
"Go fish."

At which point the ringleader, so befuddled by the riddles of this mysterious beggar, watched the man leave, and immediately set about changing his lifestyle to that of a fisherman. From this interchange of words, the world’s first fishing rod was invented. Some historians, notably David Riving, have noted that

The curvature of the fishing rod is notable for its hook-like shape, lending credence to the idea that the Jews had something to do with the whole thing.

A view I don’t agree with, if only because fishing rods aren’t hook shaped, at least not until something is caught on them.

Gaming was part and parcel of London life during the period of war between 1940 and 1945. The Blitz spirit, whereby no Londoner was allowed to feel depressed at all, was actually just a large game played by each Londoner, agreed upon the outbreak of war. In the end, the game was won by Gladys Sandwich, a clerk, who in May 1945 was presented by King George with a special gold medal made in the shape of an upper lip. Second place went to Jack Solid, who was awarded a moustache.

War analysts who specialise in game theory have made recent discoveries that, according to population data of movements during the war, show that

... according to Neumannian probability sets, the combination of mixed-strategy equilibria and sustained generalisation over several decision trees indicate that seventy years ago London actually won the game (Dexter, 2009).

This essay fuelled a panic amongst game theorists for a while, who concluded erroneously that not only did London’s success eradicate the need for game theory, but the need to bother doing anything ever again (Niall Lism, 2010). Eventually this dilemma was resolved when a young analyst at Yale named Sam Dolby wrote an essay, explaining that there was one important calculation that had been mistaken, and that the error was
            A misplaced integer. Dexter put a one instead of a zero. Idiot.

For this one-line essay, Dolby received a B.

Games in London culminated with the Olympic Games in 2012, an event so monumental that the cost to the economy was still evident twenty years after the event. However, the cost was clearly worth it – for Great Britain finished third in the table for the second Olympics in a row, a result that ensured the entire rest of the world bowed down in total reverence to Britain’s sporting ability and from then on allowed Great Britain to win every single event in all the next Olympics ever, as well as allowing all British residents to travel anywhere in the world for free.

Sports that began as playground games now feature prominently in the Olympics. Sports like Patball, first invented in Dulwich College in 1949, for example. The game, which began as a simple hitting of a tennis ball against a brick wall, now features seventy players, thirty walls, eight balls, five flame trials, six spike pits, one Banquet Table of Temptation, five cars, and a goat as referee. Its worldwide success has led for calls for other London-based games to be franchised out to the world, such as Mothercussing, Swinging, Running Back and Forth at Great Speed Across a Corridor Accompanied by Silly Music, Queuing, Apologising, and Peanut Eating. Recent efforts to implement Drinking into the Olympics met with initial enthusiasm amongst the committee, until the following morning when all members suddenly decided against it, citing “tiredness and exhaustion, and general regret”.

The future for gaming in London? Hard to say. Real life or binary? The line between analogue and digital grows finer with each day; I, for instance, spent five hours of yesterday inside a virtual London recreated inch by inch, controlling my avatar who was playing Patball on his computer. In the future, all history ever recorded will be accessed, and, seeing as the human consciousness will be uploadable to the Cloud in ten years, all notions of time and space will be erased, and no longer will there be any photo finishes. There will only be photoshopped finishes. Or it will all be the same as it is now and this is all wild speculation.

W, Double W

The lecture hall was packed with hipsters, students, hippies, stupids, Bagginses, Boffins, Tooks, Brandybucks, Grubbs, Chubbs, Hornblowers, Bolgers, Bracegirdles and          Proudfoots. Babbling rumours hummed and shifted as faces scanned the crowd behind and in front of them. The ones that tried to scan the sides found their heads smacking into the speakers located either side of their head. Those were the stupids. The lecture hall was based in California, in a location that one can summarise as being at the forefront of pretty much everything. This was the place that would have invented sliced bread if sliced bread didn’t already exist. This was the place where teeth were so white that gargling water then spitting it out produced a rainbow. This was the place where travelling to work on a pogo stick was considered progressive. Until the pogo stick ban by the Suits.

The head of Mozilla, Mitchell Baker, entered the room to rapturous applause. Her austere appearance was offset by the impact of a pink clip residing in her black hair. She swung her hair back and forth six times as she stood at the podium, a ritual akin to the haka. This hair swinging ritual used to silence the crowds, amazed as they were by the lustre and shine of the locks. Now, however, it prompted whoops and yells of “you’re awesome!” Promptly Baker held up a hand and silenced the throng.

“Today, I’m going to talk about the future. The future of the Internet. As we know, the Internet is one of the most amazing tools for humankind ever seen. It took us several decades to realise how useful it could be. I personally can’t remember what life was like before it. I try and produce memories, then find myself trying to Google for the answer. Unfortunately, asking Google about life before the web produces the suggestion ‘did you mean life as we know it’. This is something we’re discussing with Google – something to do with AI or something. But I digress.
“I still occasionally freak out when I think that I can write something and send it to this place they call cyberspace, and my words will be there, residing in the Cloud forever. But the web has elements of chaos that I think still need to be taken into account when deciding upon its future.
"If you think about the architecture of the web, there's no real place that says 'I'm at the centre'. The world is doing more things on the internet today, and the browser is no longer adequate to build that kind of user control. The phrase I like to use is user sovereignty. I'm the human being. I should be in control. It should not be that I buy a machine and that something else is controlling it - because then I become the object.
“I want to go from A to B, in real-time, without the need to adhere to structures that were fine fifteen years ago but seem creaky and archaic now. Typing letters into an address bar, adding dot coms, adding www... that’s so nineties. In this new paradigm we need to cater for the human. The end user is what we need to prioritise, not the system. The Internet is not bigger than any of us. Sure, it holds more data currently than all our human brains combined, but storing information inside a warehouse doesn’t make the warehouse clever. We built the warehouse. We need to fix how we find our stock. What I suggest is doing away with old systems. Embrace the human. This is why I’m introducing the Dong concept.”

The crowd sat up with interest as Baker walked back and forth silently for a moment. A picture flashed up on the screen behind her. Upon the screen a dong appeared. The crowd murmured. What was a picture of a cock doing on a board and why wasn’t she doing anything about it?

“It’s raw. It’s new. It’s unlike anything anyone has ever done for the Internet before. But it’s so obvious, if you think about it. One aspect of the web that hasn’t changed is that a heck of a lot of information transmitted is from porn. So I realised that the best way to govern the internet was if we hooked up our computers to men’s cocks and used a collective erection count to collectively prioritise the best sources of information. It’s like someone texting you, except it involves erections. In an ideal future, any man looking for porn will simply be directed by the computer’s memory of what prompted his erections before as well as the collective boner score. No need for one-handed typing. You become the master of your own fate. The master of your own bate.”

The crowd stared silently.

“Only kidding. We’re going to implement something called Pancake.”

The crowd gave her a standing ovation yelling out “HELL YEAH! FUCKING PANCAKE!”

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Protest in London

Over the course of several thousand years London has experienced wave after wave of conflicts and revolts, protests and barneys. Strife has etched her distinctive mark into London’s skin, and the tattoo is shaped like a fist with a boxing glove over it for protection.

I recall going through Brixton one day as a child in the car driven by my parents. At one point we went through a tunnel, whereupon we were witness to a riot of some kind. My father advised us to put our heads down. I recall saying to my sister that we looked “a bit mental”. We spent the rest of the time in the tunnel laughing ourselves silly whilst my father and mother fretted over the possibility that thugs might drag us out of the car and beat us to a bloody pulp with lead pipes. I was a child then; and, as an adult now, I can safely say that I know the dark underbelly of London and its conflicts, and, were the same event to occur, it would be me barking at my children to put their heads down and shut up.

Conflicts happen each and every day in London. Men brawl over football games. Women pull each other’s hair due to a difference in opinion regarding the future of the euro. Schoolchildren start wars over whose mum is more dead. Conflict boils and froths in London’s cauldron each and every day, but it is fortunate for us that it is only rare to see strife and conflict reach revolutionary levels.

It is said that in 1244, a gentleman by the name of John Aethelsen entered a pub and pronounced himself head of a one-man revolutionary army seeking to bring down the government. He wrote the king a letter stating his wish to supplant him. To his surprise, the king invited him for dinner and allowed him to be king for the next seven days. After the seven days were over, Aethelsen shook the king’s hand and went back to his job as a village idiot. Needless to say, the actions of the king prevented London, and England, from civil war. The country would have split into two: the whole of England, and John Aethelsen. It was said that had the country gone to battle with Aethelsen, he would have been victorious, for, to quote the town mayor,

            His strength was that of twenty bulls. If not twenty one. Well no. Twenty’s about right.

The fact that twenty bulls wouldn’t be enough to defeat the rest of England evidently passed him by, but that can be forgiven; for it was a more stupid time, when men thought God revolved around the sun and that maths was made out of stone.

The most notable acts of protest against London’s authorities are probably the Gunpowder Plot and the July 7 bombings of 2005. Both events, absorbed by the loving bosom of history, have now turned from sources of pain to sources of celebration. Every November 5th people gather round bonfires and burn effigies of Guy Fawkes. Similarly, every July 7th, people create a ‘Bearded Man’ and attach approximately a kilo of gelignite to the figure, before watching it blow up. Ironically, over the course of the hundred or so years since the event, more people have died in household accidents than in 2005.

Commoners have often risen up, seemingly out of nowhere, to permanently shake the status quo from its stupor. The Cornish Pasty Revolt of 2012 came about as the result of the then Chancellor George Osborne implementing 20% VAT on Cornish pasties, stating,

I can’t remember the last time I ate a Cornish pasty.

The Prime Minister David Cameron attempted to cool the issue, stating

            I once ate a pasty in Leeds station.

But this statement was later proven to be a lie, and that it was in fact a sausage roll. As a result, the populace of London bought Cornish pasties en masse and marched to Parliament, holding aloft signs saying ‘YOU DESTROY THE PASTY AND YOU DESTROY THE FUTURE’ and ‘THIS IS A CORNY ISSUE’. These sings were later burnt by protestors; not as effigies, but because they were “so lacking in wit as to merit being destroyed forever”.

that was a bit shit